Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
After being incredibly patient with us as we went through our website remodel, this anonymous interviewee’s story is finally live – and what a harrowing story it is.
Contracting an STD takes such an incredible mental toll on those who are diagnosed that we often set aside some of the physical implications. For this reader, the long-term ramifications of her diagnosis were immeasurable, and she bravely shares that story with us so that others can know they are not alone and that they, too, will be able to heal.
Thank you, interviewee, for your authenticity and willingness to help others through their diagnosis.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
Chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which are both now resolved, and herpes, which is on going.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
About 12 years ago, I found out I had chlamydia on two separate occasions. Later on, I had pelvic inflammatory disease.
About 6 years ago, I contracted genital herpes. I found out that I had herpes after it had been lying dormant in my system for years; so I have known about it for 4 years now.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
With the chlamydia 12 years ago, I remember the exact first time I got it. I remember sleeping with a guy I was seeing at the time, and he was in some slight pain during sex. There was a lot of discharge, and I was concerned. I got it checked out and found out I had chlamydia. I got it treated and moved on.
I was young and thought that lightening would not and could not strike twice, so I did not take precautions, and I slept with another guy I trusted and felt for, deeply. He went away shortly afterwards. Six months later, I went to get a check up and, again, found I had chlamydia. I got them both treated with antibiotics.
Later on, I often felt pain and tenderness in my lower abdomen. I went to get it looked at and had to have scans. They said that the pelvic inflammatory disease was likely due to the previous chlamydia infections. Again, I took another dose of antibiotics.
Things went quiet for a few years, and I began to use precautions. But, then I went through some difficulties and started to take risks again, and that resulted in me getting herpes. As I was with different men at that time, I will never know who I got herpes from.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
Well, when I found out I had herpes, I initially thought I had a very bad yeast infection, but it kept returning. At times, it was so bad I could not walk. It hurt so bad, but I really did not know what it was; so I just tried to pray it away. It always returned, and one day, I went to see the doctor. She said I needed to see a gynecologist, so I did.
After finding out I had genital herpes, I felt dirty, disgusting and depressed. I rang my boyfriend, who I had only been with for 3 months ( I had not slept with him yet), and I just cried and told him it was over because I had herpes. He was a virgin and did not know what it was. He was very very scared; he thought it was like HIV or something worse. We agreed to go our separate ways, and I cried myself to sleep that night while he stayed up researching herpes.
After his research, he came back and said he did not care if I had herpes, because it is not life threatening. I felt selfish, because he had never been with another woman, and now he would have to deal with me and my problem, but his unconditional love saved me in that moment. We have been together ever since.
I married him, but my past was still whipping my behind 11 years after having had chlamydia and PID.
I became pregnant. We were so happy, because we had been trying for about a year.
Sadly, the pregnancy was ectopic (developing in my tube), so I had to have emergency surgery to terminate the pregnancy as an ectopic pregnancy can be life threatening. I was devastated by this, and even more so when the surgeon informed me that during surgery he observed my fallopian tubes and they were extremely damaged and scarred; he said it was most likely because of the previous STDs. (My second lot of chlamydia had gone undetected for 6 months.)
Thankfully, the surgeon was able to remove some of the scarring, but I lost my left tube.
The guilt you feel when you realize how badly you have treated your body, and then to lose your baby because of past mistakes is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
While grieving for the ectopic pregnancy, I experienced deep depression. One day, I was crying, and I told my mom it was my fault the baby couldn’t make it through my scarred fallopian tubes. I was screaming and out of control. My mom gripped me hard, looked me deep in the eyes, and said, ‘You were just living your life when you got those STDs. You would never have known it would turn out like this; do not blame yourself.’
I pretty much live my life by those words these days.
I also told a couple of friends; they were supportive and understood it would take me a while to get through the entire ordeal.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD/STI? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
Yes, I take acyclovir, which is ok, at the moment, but I am currently requesting to be placed on suppressive therapy. I lead a busy life, and a lack of sleep or bad diet almost always result in an outbreak.
Zinc really works good for me too. I take it daily, it strengthens my system, and it stops the outbreaks. I also try to avoid junk food at all costs; stuff like fast foods and stuff that is not good for your body almost always gives me an outbreak.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
No, it has not. The young men I dated never seemed to mind about my sexual health history.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Yes, I am married to the most awesome man in the world.
Outbreaks affect our sex life, and, at times, it is hard. I don’t always feel sexy just before or just after an outbreak. My husband, of course, had to deal with the loss of our baby without blaming me for it too. My past has affected him in these ways, but he never makes me feel guilty.
He is amazing – we don’t know if he has herpes too now, but he has never had an outbreak. He never allows me to freak out about it and is always supportive.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I want to take care of my body more.
I realize that there are consequence to all things.
I thank God for each day, because it could be worse, and I just try to not to let it get me too depressed. I mean, there are times when I get really down and think, ‘who on earth gave this to me why did this happen?’ But I will never know, and the past is just that – the past.
Now, I have to make the most of my life and ensure that I do what I can to help others be aware of their bodies so they don’t go down the same path.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Because it’s time for someone somewhere to hear my story and be healed from their guilt. Freed from their shame, so that they can know that there is life after STDs.
And, most of all, I hope to inspire others to treat their body as a temple.
Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!